The Board of Deputies has backed a resolution to urge all UK synagogues and Jewish community organisations to take practical steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
At its plenary meeting last week, deputies voted for the resolution, which called on members to recognise the responsibility of the Jewish community to play its part in tackling global climate concerns. The policy, devised by the Board’s Community Issues Division, advised all UK synagogues and Jewish organisations to take action as soon as possible to make their premises environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.
The Community Issues Division also wants each deputy to report all such measures to the Board’s environment group by the end of March 2010.
But some critics spoke out against the policy, arguing that the Board had no place to discuss this issue, that it was too simplistic and that it did not take into account the issues of many historic synagogues. Others complained at the idea of reporting back to the Board about progress made.
Jonathan Davies (Golders Green) said: “I wonder what English Heritage thinks of this. I’d love to have a synagogue that’s energy efficient or whose roof doesn’t leak. This solution is simplistic and does not address the issues of many historic synagogues.”
But Brian Humphreys (Movement for Reform Judaism) said: “Nobody is asking anyone to take extreme measures but look at what’s happening in your community and see if you can find some way to reduce the environmental impact in your building.
“It won’t be us who suffer, but our children and grandchildren who will be in a hostile environment.”
In 2007, the Board launched the Big Green Jewish Website (biggreenjewish.org), which was formed following a Board initiative on the subject. It explains that respect for the environment has always been part of Jewish ethical teaching.
But the Board admitted that the campaign “now needs to be given high priority”. ESIAG (the Board’s environment and social issues action group) is working on a toolkit to guide synagogues and organisations on developing an environment policy.
The Board also announced that in November, all deputies will be sent a form to complete where they will have to state what action has already been taken, what is planned and whether any advice or further guidance may be required to complete the task.
Vice-president Jerry Lewis (Hampstead) added: “I expect every one of you to do as much in your shuls and organisations as we, the Board, do for you. There are simple things a synagogue can do.
“In Hampstead Synagogue, we have put in new bulbs and new heating, which helps bring down the carbon footprint. All I’m asking is a simple request to go back to your shul and ask them to do something.”